October 18, 2017

Creative Politics

We kicked off this month with a super-exciting event. Teamed up with Edelman, we invited speakers from the world of advertising, design and political strategy to give us an inspiring insight into the world of politics and how to persuade a fickle nation. For those that couldn’t make it (and even those that did), here are the highlights of the evening.

James Morris | Senior Director at Edelman

James, a former speech writer, ad planner and adviser of Presidents, Prime Ministers and party leaders in Europe, US and Africa, introduced us to the topics of the evening by diving straight into the (current) political environment and the role creativity has to play in it.

Having been involved in the 2005 election, he recounts how even banners were new to parties and got a huge response during the election. Nowadays the landscape has changed: The importance of brand building for both parties and candidates is undeniable. James even argues that Trump's win – very similar to the Obama's – was a result of just that.

He later wrote in his Campaign article about the role of social media strategy: "Analytics and targeting are important and techniques are advancing, but the heart of good social strategy [...] is to create the infrastructure that allows people to create their own niche and connect with others. [...] Creativity is shifting from advertising ideas to communications ideas which enable audiences to become part of your community." These ideas have to be authentic (something that Hillary might have missed to deliver in last years campaign), so that people can agree to them and affiliate with them.

Nicki Field | Head of Illustration at Jelly

Nicki explained how the current political landscape (Trump, Brexit etc) made her want to do something about it using Jelly’s skills and network with activism at heart. Quickly after the snap election was announced, this developed into something a lot more concrete: Jelly teamed up with Bite The Ballot and created the #TurnUp campaign to “encourage young people to vote.”

The brief was totally artist focused, with only a handful of conditions, like no obscenities and that the work must be party neutral. The response was more than incredible: From Marcus Walter to Rude, even the deputy creative director from the Guardian, Chris Clarke, contributed.

On registration day, after about 3 weeks of solidly pushing out the work through every social and media channel, BTB and Jelly tweeted sponsored content throughout the day live from the Twitter HQ.But they couldn’t just stop there: Now it was time to give the online campaign legs through print. From Cardiff, Leeds, Sheffield, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Manchester – they targeted areas where youth turnout was famously low. Many of the artists themselves distributed stickers and posters and helped them with their guerilla campaign. The idea was to let the volume of the message speak for itself and capture the sense of voting simply being something that EVERYONE does.

It was the highest youth turnout in 25 years. Nearly 1.5 million under 35s registered to vote in the run up to the snap election. Nearly 250,000 people aged 18-24 signed up to vote on registration deadline day alone. If that’s not something positive.

You can find all shareables here.

Rebecca Strickson | Freelance Illustrator and Art Director

The Peckham-based illustrator and art director Rebecca has always been political – she's a long time labour supporter – and she does not beat around the bush about it either. So it's no wonder that the recent political landscape has galvanised her. Being experienced in creating nuanced artwork to someone else's texts/copies as an illustrator, this general election, she wanted to try to talk in her own voice, and say what she thought.

She created a series of prints based on the aesthetics and spirit of traditional union banners to share her beliefs on political issues. On her website she said about the project: [...] We are going to have so much to protest about for the foreseeable future. I couldn’t quite get it right, and then I got so angry I just thought, ‘f**k it, make it directly about what you believe in.’

Only a couple days after sharing the first two illustrations of the series, a friend of hers met Jeremy Corbyn on the train home after the debate. Not to mention that – of course – he loved it. From Emily Clarke to Alexa Chung, people shared the series and the rest is history.

Rebecca went viral completely by accident. She is still adding to the series though and says will do so as long as it needs to (inspire people):

Dave Henderson | Creative Partner at Atomic

Ex Mullen Lowe, DDB & Saatchi's Dave, now Creative Partner at Atomic, brings us back to the general election on the advertising side. He illustrates how he and his team created the i Newspaper campaign which promoted its coverage in the general election. To highlight the concise, quality coverage of the i Newspaper in the lead up to the general election, Atomic first dived into research: What kind of advertising did the parties push out at the time? Was it good? Successful? Hardly so.

Dave pointed out that most posters he’s recently seen seem to be creatively speaking bland and lackluster. He pointed out that the history of great political advertising has some or all of the common attributes: graphical elements, often portraits of the politicians (think Che Guevara, or Shepard Fairey’s iconic Obama “Hope” work) a certain wit in the line(s), and an absolute attention to the detail when it comes to the visual. Not over-thought, not too simple.

Going from there, he sketched below:

Depicting certain aspects from each party leader (which they might have wished they wouldn’t have said and/or done) and manipulating their portraits accordingly brought the "concise and quality" message to life.

By the end of June, brand awareness grew significantly from 70% to 83%. Circulation had grown by 2.72%, while the wider market saw a decline of 6.2% in the same period. The i now outsells the Guardian by 2 to 1. What more do you want from a campaign?

Laura Muse | Creative at Now (during general election at Creature)

Creature, where Laura was a creative at the time when the snap election was announced, has been the go-to agency for the Green party. So it was no surprise when the brief landed on their table by the end of April: deadline? In two weeks. No problem(?!).

With the broadcasts that have been put out by both the labour and conservative party in the last couple elections, the Green party wanted to take a stand and call the parties out. Laura talks us through the two days of concepting which end up with the one and (as she said) “always only one” concept which fit to this brief:

“We’ll create a parody of a 90s TV advert for a brand new board game called ‘The Race to Number 10: The Snap Election Edition’. A game that no-one wants to play but we’re all being forced to!

A family with older teenage kids will be playing the game in a lighthearted and jovial way, creating the perfect contrast with the cut-throat nature of the game, that relies on you lying, cheating and forcing your way to the finish line.

And best of all - nobody wins! Yay!”

A day after client presentation, the team wrote the script, five days after that they went into casting, and then one day after another shot, edited, graded, post and sound, and finally delivery. There are your two weeks.

With this limited time, Creature had to get crafty: all of the props were made in house (including the board game itself) and they shot the film on green screen. Impressive!

But so was also the public: People said the Green party has won the broadcasts for this election, one person even compared the broadcast to “John Lewis during Christmas”, other people thought the film was absolutely savage – and they were also absolutely loving it.

Later during the Q&A section the panel was asked whether and how Tories would be able to appeal to a younger demographic. Everyone simply agreed that the Tories face a challenge which is much more profound than they might expect. James pointed out with an average age of 71, it's hard to believe that a change will come soon, especially considering that two thirds of under-40s backed Jeremy Corbyn at the election. That being said, we also have to remember that we are in a very left-leaning industry.

To the question whether any of the panelists would actually reject to work for e.g. the Tories though, the answers were perhaps surprising to some (, unsurprising for others). Whereas some agencies like Edelman will keep themselves completely out of politics, Dave Henderson took the stance and said he would not reject it even if it opposed his personal preferences, since this wouldn't be fair for the agency.

Last question of the night was whether the panel thought #Grime4Corbyn made a difference in the election. There was no doubt, so here's a picture of the two of them:

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